Columbus is really changing…
I’m not saying that from the point of view of someone that’s been here for decades and has seen this once small and sleepy town grow into a sizable, regional hub. I’m saying this as someone who’s hailed from a large city and can attest to the growth this city has undergone since I landed here in 2011. What I used to refer to as the “cul-de-sac” of western Georgia is beginning to capitalize on its resources and become a true destination for tourism and industry. Our downtown urban core has developed from a strictly historic (yet beautiful) district to an area where the marriage of historic homes and mills to a vibrant nightlife and eatery scene can be enjoyed by all who visit it. A giant whitewater course roars along the river, affordable homes and neighborhoods can be found sprouting up around the city and a walkable trail that connects the city provides its users with a scenic path through some of the most beautiful areas of town. Georgia’s third largest city truly has its charm.
But Columbus’ skyline sucks.
Sitting nestled in the lower west pocket of the Piedmont region is probably the largest city with the least impressive skyline I have ever seen in my life. Skylines are more than just tall buildings dotting a large city. They represent economic vitality and the centralization of businesses and services. When many people see tall buildings, the first thing they may wonder is, “what business is that?” or “who lives in there?” To me, a skyline is a good (but not the only) indicator of a busy and thriving metropolis.
A bit of history for the unaware.
The two tallest buildings in the city (AFLAC World Headquarters and Government Center Tower) have kept that same status for 44 and 49 years, respectively. When driving into Phenix City (AL) on Highway 431, you can look across the river into Georgia and see the two buildings looming over the city the same way they have been since the early ’70s. Many things have changed below, while almost nothing has changed above. A few levels lower you can see the peaks of the Piedmont Hospital, the downtown Corporate Center and a few church spires and mill chimneys poking their heads above the tree line. Other than that, everything pretty much lies low to the ground. Many new businesses have sprung up and have kept to this pattern by either occupying empty buildings or constructing new sites further to the north and the east. With the local military installation eating up a huge portion of the county, Columbus’ expanse is limited and can only go so far before tip-toeing into the surrounding counties. Which is why my argument for eventually building up instead of out simply echoes the voices of many residents who want to see the city’s visual identity become more than what it is.
Now I understand that Columbus hasn’t gotten there yet. After all, the only interstate that serves the city is the forty-nine mile I-185, which is really just a local artery to the much larger I-85. So in terms of proximity to a major airport and resources, Columbus just doesn’t have much to offer large companies looking to relocate. Our city’s population has faltered quite a bit compared to our rival sister city, Augusta, knocking us down to third place. In addition, there are still other local amenities that we have yet to provide for young families to want to relocate and stay here for the long term. Maybe if we worked on these things, we may see some change take place. A city only looks as good as the attitude of its citizens. And as of right now, we’re alright…but we could do a lot better.
Despite all of this, I would be neglectful in my duties as a citizen of this charming town if I did not publish this post with the hope that some major developer would consider lifting our city above the tree line. They say in Columbus, “we do amazing.” Maybe one day, we’ll do amazing structures that loom over the Chattahoochee River. Until then, the quaint will have to work.
Featured image courtesy of VisitColumbusGA.com. ©2019